Fifa’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is causing the organisation a major headache, and not just because of the debate over the climate in the desert nation.
Qatar has long been pilloried for its record on human rights, with religious dissenters and people like homosexuals harshly treated by the country’s conservative laws.
And Fifa has now been accused of being complicit in a “conspiracy”, after a damning report in the Guardian exposed the inhumane conditions that migrant labourers have been subjected to, working on World Cup infrastructure projects.
Thousands of cheap labourers from Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Nepal have been brought to Qatar to work at construction sites in the build-up to the World Cup in 2022.
According to theGuardian’s report, which focused on the Nepalese workers, as many as 44 men have died on the job, due to the harsh working conditions in Qatar.
Forced labour and slavery has been alleged, with the cause of death attributed to heart attacks in the summer heat, and workplace incidents.
Workers claim that they have been refused free drinking water, that their passports are routinely confiscated by their employers, and that their salaries go unpaid.
When they complain, they are beaten and fired, and left to beg in the streets.
The secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation says that unless Fifa does something to stop the abuse of workers on World Cup projects, it is complicit in modern day slavery.
Sharan Burrows claims that despite Fifa suggesting it is “concerned” by the contents of the Guardian’s report, it is not doing enough to change the situation on the ground.
"If Fifa really were serious, then their power to hold the World Cup with decent work or to withdraw it would be enough for the Qataris to sit down and talk," Burrows told the Associated Press.
She added that "several hundred migrant construction workers die each year in Qatar", and said that unless Fifa acts now, more people will die as Qatar begins to build more aggressively in the run-up to 2022.
Stung by the report, Fifa claims to be “appalled and disturbed”, but is yet to act accordingly.
The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, who is organising the tournament, has responded with a statement saying: "There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner.
"The health, safety, well-being and dignity of every worker that contributes to staging the 2022 Fifa World Cup is of the utmost importance to our committee.”
However, unless Qatar immediately begins to treat its workforce of migrant labourers like human beings, the prospect of the 2022 World Cup will remain even more unpalatable than it already was for many sceptics.